Bair's Top 5 takeaways from Raiders' Week 9 loss to Steelers
Another missed opportunity
The Raiders left Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers with a few bumps, bruises and a 38-35 loss at Heinz Field. Much like their last three losses, this Week 9 affair was a game they should’ve won. While several were upset with a tough, last-second loss – Amari Cooper in particular was bothered by the outcome – the Raiders went toe-to-toe with the Steelers, fought through adversity and never quit. The state of the Raiders secondary is troubling, and the Steelers proved that unit is vulnerable to units with strong-armed quarterbacks and quick-strike capability.
5) Crabtree a solid safety net
The Raiders made a few quality free agent pickups, but receiver Michael Crabtree ranks among the best. The former 49er has been a model teammate and a steady producer in a receiving corps which sometimes gets a case of the drops. He went over 100 receiving yards for the second straight time and the third time in eight games. He is heavily targeted and rightfully so, finding ways to get open and break tackles and be a go-to guy when times get rough.
4) Defense needs a hero
The Raiders defensive front pressured Steelers quarterbacks 19 times on Sunday, but Aldon Smith had the only sack. It came on third down and knocked Ben Roethlisberger from the game, but more quarterback hits and sacks could’ve helped a secondary fighting for its life in the back. Khalil Mack is dealing with a hamstring strain, gets double-teamed frequently and still grades out well, but he is the defensive superstar and needs to make a greater impact. Sunday he didn’t have a tackle. The defense as currently constructed needs a hero. Mack can be it.
3) Reece a solid backup plan
Feature running back Latavius Murray was concussed by safety Mike Mitchell on Sunday, and it’s uncertain whether he’ll be able to play next week against Minnesota. Fullback Marcel Reece, Jamize Olawale and a whole-lot of passing filled in for Murray at Pittsburgh. Taiwan Jones seems better fit for a secondary role and while Roy Helu is available, Reece has been solid in the few games where he has been given steady carries. He has averaged 4.7 yards per carry in his career, and could provide physical running needed on the interior, with Helu accenting those efforts.
2) Secondary needs reinforcements
The Raiders are incredibly thin at defensive back, especially on Sunday with safety/cornerback TJ Carrie out with injury. Charles Woodson is trying to glue the unit together, but is severely limited by a shoulder injury that prevents intimidating physicality. Corners David Amerson and D.J. Hayden are imperfect, but the best this team has got. In other words, they need Nate Allen now more than ever. The safety should return from short term IR this week and play against Minnesota. If he comes back and Carrie returns, the secondary will get a much-need boost.
1) Carr proving unflappable
Raiders quarterback Derek Carr threw an ill-timed interception in the end zone – tight end Clive Walford didn’t read coverage right – in the fourth quarter when a touchdown would’ve tied it. The second-year pro wasn’t fazed. He believed he would score if the defense gave him second life. It was provided, and Carr marched right down field and hit Michael Crabtree with a game-tying 28-yard touchdown strike. Carr had 301 yards, four touchdowns and a pick. He wasn’t sacked, and has now put inspired performances together. With Carr going strong, the Raiders believe they can beat anybody.